Push for atheist Scout oath is damned by Anglican priest
Priest says call for a new pledge allowing atheists to join the Scouts is enough to make him eat his woggle
AN ANGLICAN priest has condemned a move by the Scouting movement to recognise atheism on a par with Christianity and other religions.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the Rev Dr Peter Mullen says the idea of a new Scout oath allowing atheists to become Scouts and Scout group leaders was enough to "make me eat my woggle".
The Scouts were founded as a Christian organisation - not a body with "paid-up membership of the Amalgamated Coven of Tree-Huggers", writes Mullen who bemoans what he sees as a bad case of political correctness.
The Scouting movement is consulting its members about a new Scout Promise - the oath taken by all new fulltime members - that does not require them to "do their duty to God". The BBC says the move follows accusations of "discrimination and intolerance" when 11-year-old George Pratt was barred from joining a Scout Group in Somerset earlier this year. Pratt said he could not take the Scout Promise because he does not believe in God.
In an opinion piece in today's Daily Telegraph the chief executive of the Scout Association, Derek Twine, says the organisation's current rules force people to be "hypocritical or dishonest" when they take the Promise, regardless of their beliefs.
He calls the move to modify the oath as an "historic change" and says all organisations like the Scouts need to "stay fresh and current" while remaining true to founding principles.
Mullen doubts if atheists can take vows, saying: "A vow means a solemn promise, and solemnity is something which belongs to the realm of religious faith and practice."
The BBC points out that the Scouts introduced alternative versions of the Promise more than 40 years ago allowing Hindus and Buddhists to substitute "my Dharma", and Muslims "Allah", instead of God. Scouts who don't live in the UK can replace the phrase "duty to the Queen with "duty to the country in which I am now living".
In March, the National Secular Society, which aims to restrict the role of religion in public life, wrote to the Chief Scout Bear Grylls, complaining that atheist children were being excluded or having to lie to join the movement.
The society's president Terry Sanderson told The Independent today the push for a new oath was a "move in the right direction" that would put an end to "unpleasant confrontations".
The Scouting movement insists the existing Scout Promise would continue to be used alongside a new secular version.